Spiritual Health is Vital to Our Well-Being – And Our Recovery
When most of us think about health, we think about two specific components – physical health and mental health. To enjoy optimal physical health, we should focus on healthy eating and exercise. Taking care of our mental health means keeping stress to a minimum and engaging in positive activities and relationships that contribute to mental wellness.
But, what about our spiritual health?
Many tend to neglect the spiritual aspect of life, which also deserves special attention. This is especially true of people who are in early recovery. To be truly healthy, you simply MUST take care of your mind, body, AND spirit. If you do not address each of these three elements of your life, you will be missing a critical piece of the recovery puzzle.
At Ashley, we integrate a holistic approach for patients who come to us for addiction treatment services. We understand that spiritual health is just as important as physical and mental health. Spirituality manifests as joy, hope, connectedness, compassion, and an overall a sense of well-being. These are just a few of the many benefits of living a spiritually-focused lifestyle.
Addiction Can Leave Us Feeling Spiritually Bankrupt
Many people can relate to a feeling of spiritual bankruptcy when they first get into recovery. This is an unfortunate (and very common) consequence for those who are afflicted with the disease of addiction.
For some, this feels like an aching emptiness – a kind of inner void that can’t be explained with words. Others feel tremendous shame and guilt for being dishonest and hurting their families in the course of their addiction. It is not uncommon for people in the grip of a substance use disorder to violate their most precious values, which has a profound impact on them spiritually.
The antidote to emptiness and the solution to feelings of shame and guilt is spiritual health. Spirituality allows us to experience gratitude for our recovery. It gives us permission to recognize that we are imperfect human beings worthy of forgiveness. It teaches us that every moment is a gift to be appreciated fully. Being spiritually fit gracefully moves us into a space of acceptance of ourselves, our past, and our present moment.
12-Step Recovery Offers Hope and Healing
At Ashley, we encourage patients to embrace 12 Step recovery fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. These are simple, spiritual, not religious programs that orient members to establish a relationship with a God of their own understanding. In the rooms of A.A. and N.A., this is commonly referred to as a having “Higher Power.” (Belief in God is NOT a requirement to enjoy the benefits of a 12 Step Program.)
Fellowships like A.A. and N.A. (in addition to other programs like Heroin Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous) are proven programs of recovery. They promote complete abstinence from alcohol and all drugs. They also provide tools that teach members how to live a lifestyle based on spiritual principles. Estimates suggest that millions of people have gotten sober in 12 Step programs around the world.
“Working” the 12 Steps will take you on a spiritual journey that will restore your sanity, help you develop faith and trust, allow you to make amends to people you have harmed, and teach you the value of prayer and meditation.
Most people go to a 12 Step recovery program simply because they want to learn how to live and enjoy a life without alcohol and drugs. However; these programs provide an avenue that cultivates spiritual health in daily living.
Other Practices That Promote Spiritual Health
Of course, 12 Step programs are not the only way to foster a sense of spirituality in your life. In fact, some people in recovery decide that the 12 Steps are not for them. Instead, they pursue other approaches that allow them to focus on their spiritual health.
Here are three examples:
- Many people participate in a regular meditation practice. They may belong to a Zen meditation group, enjoy guided meditations on YouTube, or develop an individual method that works best for them. Studies have shown that meditating regularly (three times a week for 20-30 minutes) greatly reduces anxiety and stress. It also promotes healthy, restful sleep.
- Others incorporate the spiritual practice of yoga into their recovery. Yoga is an ancient art that incorporates stretching, structured body movements, mindfulness, and breathing techniques. It requires participants to be fully present in their bodies – something that recovering people greatly benefit from.
- Mindfulness is another exercise that advances spiritual health. Mindfulness incorporates specific techniques that allow participants to be fully engaged in the here and now. Because recovery happens one day at a time, learning mindfulness skills is essential to those who are committed to staying sober.
Because we recognize the value of these spiritual practices; we teach meditation techniques, offer yoga classes taught by a certified yoga instructor, and provide mindfulness training here at Ashley.
Embrace Your Spiritual Self and Enjoy the Benefits
Some enter recovery with a solid understanding of their spiritual beliefs. Others aren’t so sure what they believe – or if they even believe anything. No matter which end of the spiritual spectrum you happen to fall on, there is overwhelming evidence that shows spiritual health is vital to your quality of life.
Pursuing spiritual practices may seem foreign or uncomfortable to you in early recovery. Nevertheless, we encourage you to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Whether you choose the 12 Step path, meditation, yoga, mindfulness – or whatever spiritual practice is appealing to you – we believe spirituality will orient you to the highest and greatest expression of yourself.
Need some motivation? Here are six awesome ways spirituality makes you healthier.